When I ask moms what their biggest challenges have been in the first year of their child’s life, their answers usually include worry or guilt or both. These two topics are so common in every day conversation that I have taken to calling them the Misery Twins. The existence of worry and guilt in our lives causes incredible amounts of emotional misery and it’s time for it to stop.
You may recognize yourself in one of my Misery Twins stories:
I stepped away from our King size bed to grab my phone on the side table behind me. Right in that moment, Arthur, around 4 months old, lunged for a belt he saw hanging off he end of the bed and fell 3 feet to our floor. I didn’t see him but I heard the “KATHUMP” and his high pitched cry. My heart started beating like crazy even before he began to cry and I immediately turned around to swipe him up.
I checked him all over for bumps or bruises and held him close. He cried the hardest I had ever heard. Eventually only calming down when I nursed him.
Almost immediately I began a barrage of self incrimination. My brain angrily told me how foolish and stupid I was for leaving Arthur alone on the bed to get a goddamn phone. What kind of horrible and selfish mother chooses her phone over her baby?? What is wrong with you?! I was so flooded with guilt and shame I couldn’t even call the pediatrician. Not calling gave my brain even more ammunition for guilt and worry. It told me that hiding the fall might be child abuse. A real mom would just fess up. (Does any of this sound familiar?)
I watched Arthur closely and worried about every little thing he did or didn’t do. I read up on concussions. When he woke up late three nights later throwing up I worried it was because he had a concussion from the fall. I took him to the pediatrician squirming as I told her he fell on his head. Thankfully, the pediatrician was kind and reassuring. She told me babies brains are much more resilient than adult brains and this vomiting was due to a virus, not a concussion. (Which turned out to be quite true as it made it’s way from person to person in our house.)
The thing is, when our brains start worrying, often guilt is sure to follow and these two are a nasty combination. Once guilt and worry set in, our mind and our emotions get sucked down into a quicksand of feeling awful. We can find no foothold to escape, no olive branch to grasp.
Worry and guilt tend to be two emotions that you get “stuck” in. They grab a hold of you and won’t let you go. Sometimes guilt can be helpful but most of the time what I’ve seen is that moms use guilt to beat themselves up over and over and over.
And worry. It’s a bitch. I can think of very few situations where feeling worried is actually productive. Most of the time worry is destructive.
Together these two Misery Twins destroy our peace, our joy and our ability to create thriving lives and motherhoods. It becomes difficult to enjoy motherhood and nearly impossible to feel like a confident woman because you are consumed by the misery of guilt and worry. I know none of you became mothers because you hoped your life would be filled with self-doubt, debilitating guilt and non-stop worry.
I envision a world where women are filled with compassion, patience, forgiveness and persistence- FOR THEMSELVES (not just everyone around them). I envision mothers focused more on personal growth than dwelling on all their perceived shortcomings. I hold a vision of motherhood that focuses on joy, playfulness and a willingness to fail. In this vision mothers model how to make mistakes, learn from them, make restitution and try again. In this vision mothers find ease in forgiveness and gratitude; we choose optimism over worry and hope over fear. We show our children that our spirits are so much greater than our mistakes, that our hearts are pure and loving.
If this is a vision you resonate with, I would love to hear from you. What ideas do you have for making this vision a reality? Comment below and forward this blog to a friend to get them involved too!
Lesley holds a great deal of affection for quiet time reading with a cup of coffee, yoga and cute shoes. She specializes in coaching new moms. Lesley believes deeply and passionately that every mother already has and already IS exactly what she needs to be to mother her baby with confidence and joy. With 16 years working in social work and a Masters in Counseling, Lesley can help you create a joyful motherhood journey. Her advice has appeared in Thrive Global, Mamapedia, Parent Co, and Fit Pregnancy.